Week #4: The Inside Slant
John Holler - 9/25/2018
As the bye weeks begin in the NFL, there are going to be plenty of critical games that could alter the season in a huge way. The week starts with a battle of division champions, as the Vikings head to Los Angeles for what looks like a must-see Thursday night game.
The Sunday early games include some that have huge implications, including a battle of 2-1 teams when the Buccaneers head into Chicago with both looking to hold on to division leads, a meeting of 1-2 Detroit at 1-2 Dallas with the loser falling seriously out of playoff contention, the 2-1 Eagles heading into 2-1 Tennessee and perhaps the biggest game in recent history for Miami as the 3-0 Dolphins head into New England with a chance to bury the 1-2 Patriots.
The week ends with a pair of divisional matchups that will have huge playoff implications later in the season, as the 2-1 Ravens head into Pittsburgh (1-1-1) on Sunday night and the week comes to an end with unbeaten Kansas City heading into the Mile High air of Denver looking to take a stranglehold on the AFC West.
It’s still early in the season, but a lot of the aligning of playoff teams that will take place in Week 4 makes this a huge week where the winners and losers will help define their 2018 seasons.
THURSDAY NIGHT GAME
MINNESOTA AT LOS ANGELES RAMS
Minnesota WR Adam Thielen – The Rams have injuries at both starting cornerback spots, but they have done a great job of scheming to take a team’s top receiver away, including Amari Cooper (1-9), Larry Fitzgerald (3-28) and Keenan Allen (3-44). Thielen has been on a torrid reception pace, but the Rams have found ways to take a QB’s favorite target away and make him spread the ball.
Los Angeles TE Tyler Higbee – The Vikings defense has been hit hard by tight ends all season, including George Kittle (5-90), Jimmy Graham (6-95) and even little used Jason Croom (1-26-1). This has been a growing problem for Minnesota that doesn’t seem to be slowing up. With all the weapons the Rams have, Higbee doesn’t jump at you, but the Vikings have problems with tight ends.
SUNDAY EARLY GAMES
BUFFALO AT GREEN BAY
Buffalo RB Chris Ivory – If LeSean McCoy can play with his injured ribs, he could be the guy here. Teams haven’t committed too much to the run, but have all been effective, including Jordan Howard (15-82), the combination of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray (15-62) and Adrian Peterson (19-120-2). The Bills haven’t been a powerhouse on the ground, the Packers are vulnerable if you stick with it.
Green Bay RBs Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery – The Vikings only ran the ball four times last week and were unable to take advantage of what their two previous opponents did – the Ravens (34-117-3) and the Chargers (26-109-1). The Packers are a pass-first team, but given those numbers, if they commit to the ground game, good yardage can be had and, if the Packers problems stopping the run hits, this game could be over in 2½ hours.
CINCINNATI AT ATLANTA
Cincinnati RB Giovani Bernard – The Falcons have struggled against running backs piling up huge fantasy points against them, including Jay Ajayi (15-62-2), Christian McCaffrey (8-37 rushing, 14-102 receiving) and Alvin Kamara (16-66 rushing, 15-124 receiving). With Joe Mixon out, Bernard is going to be asked to shoulder more of the workload and, from the looks of things, big things could happen if he’s fed the ball.
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan – Every quarterback the Bengals have faced have put up huge fantasy points, including Andrew Luck (319-2), Joe Flacco (376-2) and Cam Newton (150-2 passing, 10-36-2 rushing). The Falcons offense is on fire despite being 1-2 and they will be looking to add Matty Ice’s name to this growing list.
DETROIT AT DALLAS
Detroit QB Matthew Stafford – The Cowboys haven’t been brutalized by quarterbacks despite struggling this season, including Cam Newton (161-0), Eli Manning (279-1) and Russell Wilson (192-2). Stafford is a throwing machine, but the Cowboys have done a pretty solid job of keeping opposing QBs limited from having big games.
Dallas QB Dak Prescott – The Lions lost their first two games of the season, but didn’t allow quarterbacks to have huge games against them, including Sam Darnold (198-2), Jimmy Garoppolo (206-2) and Tom Brady (133-1). Matt Patricia’s defense is starting to get some legs, so Prescott had best be on his game – and take up a meaningless challenge.
HOUSTON AT INDIANAPOLIS
Houston PK Ka’imi Fairbairn – When you play a kicker, you want to score six or more points. Anything less is a disappointment. Anything more is a bonus. In three games, the Colts have allowed kicker totals of 10-9-8. Things may be trending in the right direction, but they’re still too high.
Indianapolis RB Marlon Mack – Mack has been slowed by injury early, but is expected to be the primary back when he is 100 percent. The Texans have struggled against the run, including gang approaches from New England (31-122) and Tennessee (34-100) and Saquon Barkley (17-82-1). The Colts may go the committee approach, but that beat the Texans run the ball a lot and the production follows.
MIAMI AT NEW ENGLAND
Miami RBs Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore – The Patriots have shown little ability to stop the run and have been gashed by running backs, including Lamar Miller (20-98), the Jaguars without Leonard Fournette (24-104) and Kerryon Johnson (16-101 – the first 100-yard game in Detroit in almost five years). The Dolphins have rushed as often as they’ve passed through three games and both of their guys could have solid production if this trend holds.
New England QB Tom Brady – The Dolphins have been hit for some big yardage by opposing quarterbacks but have limited everyone from throwing touchdowns, including the combination of Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert (220-0), Sam Darnold (334-1) and Derek Carr (345-1). Brady is salty after dropping his second straight game and the Pats need this game badly, so big numbers may be in Brady’s future Sunday.
NEW YORK JETS AT JACKSONVILLE
New York QB Sam Darnold – The Jags defense has picked up where it left off against opposing quarterbacks, including Eli Manning (224-0), Tom Brady (234-2) and the combination of Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert (108-0). Darnold looked great in the opener, but it appears as though he’s coming back to earth and the Jags will be no picnic.
Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette – The Jags hope that they can get Fournette back this week because after a strong showing in Week 1, the Jets have allowed solid production on the ground, including the combination of Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore (20-78-1) and Carlos Hyde (23-98-2). Fournette is in line for a big game if he can back on the field after missing the last two games.
PHILADELPHIA AT TENNESSEE
Philadelphia RBs Corey Clement and Wendall Smallwood (and Jay Ajayi?) – The Titans have struggled badly to stop the run, including the combination of Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore (23-109), Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue (21-104) and the Jaguars without Leonard Fournette (19-87). The good news is that they haven’t allowed any touchdowns, but teams have been too productive to continue to run and wear them down and the Eagles are capable of doing that.
Tennessee WR Corey Davis – The Eagles were able to contain the Colts last week because it’s obvious Andrew Luck has no arm strength, but they have struggled to contain big-play receivers, including Julio Jones (10-169) and Mike Evans (10-83-1). The Titans don’t have a legitimate go-to receiver, but Davis passes for the best they have.
TAMPA BAY AT CHICAGO
Tama Bay QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – The Bears defense is much improved this season, but they’ve been consistent in allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw touchdowns, including Aaron Rodgers (286-3), Russell Wilson (226-2) and Sam Bradford (157-2). The shine came off of Fitzmagic a little bit Monday night, but he still has the faith of the fan base and will be another good test for Chicago’s defense.
Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky – The Bucs have been a hot topic on offense, but, as a result, their defense has been lit up by quarterbacks, including Drew Brees (439-3), Nick Foles (334-1) and Ben Roethlisberger (353-3). Trubisky hasn’t been lighting up the town, but given what others have done, it would seem that 31-27 games are going to be the norm, not the exception.
SUNDAY LATE GAMES
CLEVELAND AT OAKLAND
Cleveland RB Carlos Hyde – The Dolphins didn’t run much last week because the Raiders couldn’t stop the pass, but when backs have been fed they have succeeded, including Todd Gurley (20-108 and a receiving touchdown) and Phillip Lindsay (14-107). Hyde is dominating the number of rushing attempts in Cleveland and he should see a healthy dose of carries Sunday.
Oakland WR Amari Cooper – The Jets didn’t have a clear-cut No. 1 receiver to throw at the Browns last week, but those who have a No. 1 option have burned the Browns, including Antonio Brown (9-93-1) and Mike Thomas (12-89-2). Cooper runs hot and cold, so this will be a big week to see if he can get the job done.
NEW ORLEANS AT NEW YORK GIANTS
New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara – The Giants got so far ahead of Houston last week that they forced the Texans to abandon the run, but running backs have had strong fantasy point days when they have been able to sustain the run, including the combination of Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon (23-92) and Ezekiel Elliott (17-78-1). This will be the last game before Mark Ingram comes back and he has the show to himself, so he has the chance to make the most of it if New Orleans commits to the run.
New York WR Odell Beckham – The Saints had one of the best secondary groups in the league last year, but has been pounded by wide receivers all season, including Mike Evans (7-147-1), DeSean Jackson (5-146-2), Jarvis Landry (5-69), Calvin Ridley (7-146-3) and Julio Jones (5-96). Beckham has had a couple of decent yardage games, but hasn’t blown up yet. The Saints have given up too many big days to ignore his potential for big numbers.
SAN FRANCISCO AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
San Francisco RB Alfred Morris – The Rams Todd Gurley hit the Chargers for 105 yards on 23 carries last week, but the L.A. defense took a couple of the league’s best running backs and held them down, including Kareem Hunt (16-49) and LeSean McCoy (9-39). With the injuries in San Francisco that took Jimmy Garoppolo away and has Matt Breida sitting out practice, Morris may have to put up a huge day if the Niners are to have a chance and the Chargers don’t give up rushing yards easily.
Los Angeles WR Keenan Allen – The 49ers secondary has been ripped apart by receivers all season, including Adam Thielen (6-102), Golden Tate (7-109), Travis Kelce (8-114) and Sammy Watkins (5-55-1). Allen may not be the only Chargers receiver worth considering, but he’s at the top of the heap.
SEATTLE AT ARIZONA
Seattle RB Chris Carson – The Cardinals defense has been unable to stop the run all season as backs have run wild against them, Adrian Peterson (26-96-1 rushing, 2-70 receiving), Todd Gurley (19-42-3 and a pair of 2-point conversions) and the combination of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen (29-114-1).
Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald – The Seahawks are missing the Legion of Boom badly. They held down Dak Prescott (who hasn’t?), but receivers have routinely run wild on them, , including Emmanuel Sanders (10-135-1), Demaryius Thomas (6-63-1) and Allen Robinson (10-83). The Cards offense has struggled, but Seattle’s secondary has been hit hard too often to ignore the opportunity Fitzgerald will have to make some noise…finally.
SUNDAY NIGHT GAME
BALTIMORE AT PITTSBURGH
Baltimore WRs Michael Crabtree and John Brown – The Steelers got their first win on Monday night, but they have been riddled by receivers all season long and the list is growing, including Jarvis Landry (7-106), Travis Kelce (7-109-2), Sammy Watkins (6-100), Tyreek Hill (5-90-1), Mike Evans (6-137-1) and Chris Godwin (5-74-1). These games are typically blood baths, but with numbers like that, it could be higher scoring the most Ravens-Steelers matchups.
Pittsburgh RB James Conner – The Ravens have done a solid job of keeping running backs from running wild on them, including LeSean McCoy (7-22) and Joe Mixon (21-84) and combination of Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay (17-73-1). Without Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers run game isn’t as dynamic, but, even if Bell was to kiss and make up, gaining big yards against the Ravens won’t be easy.
MONDAY NIGHT GAME
KANSAS CITY AT DENVER
Kansas City WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce – The Broncos have a very good defense, but a receiver has posted a big game every week against them, including Will Dissly (3-105-1), Amari Cooper (10-116) and John Brown (5-86). The Chiefs have been posting up record-setting offensive numbers and it’s likely that at least one of the receivers for the Chiefs is going to come up big.
Denver QB Case Keenum – The Chiefs have been putting up giant numbers and it come with a price – teams are chucking the ball all over the field. To date, QBs playing the Chiefs have all had good fantasy days, including Philip Rivers (424-3), Ben Roethlisberger (452-3) and Jimmy Garoppolo (251-2). Playing against the Chiefs is going to stress your own defense, but quarterbacks have had big days against them simply trying to keep up and Keenum isn’t shy about putting up passes.
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